The comic book store used to be a sacred refuge of the nerd. It was one of the few places where we could feel accepted and even understood. If you wanted to gloat about finding that rare Space: 1999 British Annual or discovering some obscure small press comic, the comic shop was a place where people understood. The people there shared the same passions, experienced the same general clumsiness and truly understood what it meant to be a nerd.
A few years ago that started to change.
A new threat has started to infiltrate all of the usual safe havens for obsessive pop culture geeks. You see them at comic book stores, proudly proclaiming they are the biggest Doctor Who fan you will ever meet and can even name all THREE Doctors! You see them at the comic conventions, wearing costumes that are expertly made, but often laughably inaccurate to the true nerd. You find them just about everywhere the true nerd used to feel safe. They are the faux-nerd.
It isn’t all The Big Bang Theory’s fault, but certainly that show shoulders a lot of the blame for this infestation. It took a group of cliché nerds, added some hot girls to the mix to showcase their social awkwardness and through snappy writing and a laugh track made these stereotypes endearing. The public at large loved them, but I don’t think true nerds are quite as taken with the show because “endearing” was never what we wanted out to be.
Now, you might at this point think, “But Dave! What’s wrong with more people discovering nerd culture? Is it not a good thing that there are finally more people that love Doctor Who and Star Trek and Comic Books and everything else that used to be stigmatized as “nerdy”? And what about the hot girls? There’re hot girls that now like nerd stuff! That’s got to be good, right?”
Certainly, it could be a good thing, if it signaled a true cultural shift, but chances are it is more fad than genuine cultural change. After all, the mid-sixties Batman TV show was a cultural phenomenon that had everyone doing the Bat-tusi and buying Bat-memorabilia, but within a few years most of them lost interest and by the next decade comic books were on the verge of extinction.
So for now we’ve got all these tourists visiting out comic shops trying to pretend they are one of us, that they know the difference between The Legion of Super-Heroes and The Justice League. The lines at the comic conventions are suddenly horrendously long, clogged by people who wouldn’t have been caught dead near a comic convention just a few years ago. And if you think this new found “Geek Chic” means you have a chance at a hot girlfriend just like Leonard on The Big Bang Theory, chances are you’re going to find yourself sorely disappointed. Still think the influx of faux-nerds is such a good thing?
So what do we do about it? I’m not completely sure, although I’ve pondered several ideas. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement didn’t exactly change the world, but perhaps true nerds could adopt their strategy and occupy all those Hot Topic stores until they take down their super-hero t-shirts and Doctor Who displays. I’m not advocating violence here, of course, but maybe a little “Nerd Indignation” would be just the thing to send these faux-nerds running back to their Starbucks and Gap stores. And then, after the dust has settled and the trendy nerds have all gone away, perhaps of the few new arrivals might stay behind, choosing instead to remain with their new found brethren in the deeper waters of pop culture immersion. Those are the people we should accept into our temples of nerd culture as we were accepted before them. Our ranks might grow only slightly, but it would be a true growth, rather than a false spike. For it would only be at that point that a select few might make the difficult transition from faux-nerd to true nerd and we could say to them “Welcome! Live long and prosper. And pass the Cheetos!”